What Can Make Robots More Human-like?
What is affect and why is it important for humans? How can feelings be defined and what is their relation to emotions and consciousness? What might be used in making a soft robot? Professor Antonio Damasio (University of Southern California, USA) discussed these and other questions in his honorary lecture, entitled 'Feeling, Knowing, and Artificial Intelligence'. The talk was delivered on April 16 at the at the XXII April International Academic Conference held by HSE University jointly with Sberbank.
Professor Antonio Damasio
Soft robotics has recently acquired popularity among both neuroscientists and data scientists, as it addresses the issue of making robots human-like. In order to become human-like, robots need to become vulnerable. From the perspective of neuroscience, the affect is what makes humans vulnerable.
Feelings and Emotions—What Is the Difference?
Hunger, thirst, pain, well-being, desire, fatigue, etc, are all examples of feelings. Ups and downs in body states, which reflect homeostatic needs of the body, are translated into feelings. And homeostatic feelings are the core of affect.
Formally defined, feelings are mental experiences of body states consequent to ongoing homeostatic regulation. It is clear that
- feelings are experiences rather than actions;
- the genesis of feelings lies in the variations in body states;
- feelings are completely related to homeostatic regulation.
It is critical to distinguish feelings from emotions and understand how they are related.
Feelings are subjective events; they are not objective any way. Whereas emotions are collections of actions (visible to others) and processes in the body
In fear we recoil, our facial expression changes, muscular tension increases, and concentration of neurochemical mediators in the blood stream increases. So, emotions are theatres—we act them out.
Film and theater actors play emotions while not having subjective feelings. But they convince us that they have those feelings—certain internal states—through portraying them.
Importantly, emotions can cause feelings: fear may engender changes in the body state, thus, resulting in feelings
From Physiology to Mental Experiences
There are no complete explanations on how bodily physiological processes are translated into mental experiences. This problem has biological, psychological, and philosophical aspects. The search for explanations necessarily draws attention to the nervous system (here meaning, the brain): its architecture and functional mechanisms.
Correspondingly, two questions are critical. First, how the nervous system generates maps of the world external to the body and processes inside the body; second, how the nervous system assesses the maps, in other words, makes us conscious.
What Is Going On Inside and Outside Our Bodies: Two Perception Channels
Thanks to the nervous system, we can perceive what is going on in the body (interoception) and outside of it (exteroception). Both exteroceptive and interoceptive channels ensure signals are perceived, processed and stored in the nervous system.
Visual signals of the external environment start their neural journey from the retina, then reach the optic nerve, which maps the signals onto the visual cortex. After further processing of the signals in the brain, we acquire maps of visuals and their features (depth, forms, colour, etc.).
However, there are substantial differences in the architecture of channels for interoception and exteroception. First, in systems such as hearing, touch, and vision (which ensure information flow from the outside into the body), axons (long, slender projection of a nerve cell, or neuron) are fully myelinated, which allows them to transport external signals without leakage. Meanwhile, interoceptive channels work through denuded axons. So, they may interact with each other and be affected by the metabolic surrounding. As a result, the signal leakage is inevitable.
Second, as signals are about to enter the nervous system (or are at the crossroad of structures inside the nervous system), there is not blood brain barrier (BBB) in the neural channels in the case of interoception as opposed to the exteroception. So, the world of the blood system mingles with the world of the nervous system. Consequently, processes and states such as metabolism, digestion, and tiredness, have direct flow into the nervous system. And due to the closeness of the exteroceptive channels, the internal bodily processes find their separate mapping in the nervous system and underlie homeostatic feelings.
Importantly, the maps of the external events can be evaluated from the perspective of the body. Hence, they can affect the body, interact with the interoception of internal genesis, and modify feelings
Imagine you cut your finger. First, you feel pain (something happens in the internal world), but then the pain subsides although the emotions are still there and make you take actions concerning the external processes and objects that caused you pain.
Role of Consciousness
Conscious nature of feelings is critical. Feelings have come to living organisms (here, organisms with nervous system) with consciousness and brought deliberation. Up to the birth of feelings, organisms were regulated autonomously (by autonomic nervous system—sympathetic nervous system). The organism could not and did not need to intervene the regulation deliberately.
Now, when we follow other sophisticated creators or when we think about ourselves, one important thing is the “I KNOW”. The feeling produces conscious knowledge
And since the feelings are about being conscious of body states consequent to homeostatic regulations, then feelings open space for deliberate regulations. This is what should be mimicked in soft robots: make them reactive to their own operational state, instill interoception in them.
The HSE Laboratory for Neurobiological Foundations of Cognitive Development (Neuropsy Lab) is one of 13 winners of the HSE Mirror Laboratories Competition and the only lab headed by an international faculty member. The Neuropsy Lab’s partner institution is the Scientific and Educational Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Art Technologies based out of Ulyanovsk State University. The HSE Look spoke about this collaboration with the lab’s head – Dr Marie Arsalidou, Associate Professor at the HSE School of Psychology.
The XXII April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development is drawing to a close in Moscow. In an interview with the media partner of the event, NEWS.ru, HSE University Vice Rector Ivan Prostakov spoke about how the format of the conference was organized, how the pandemic impacted the event, and how scientists and experts from different countries regard Russia.
To what extent do the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) benefit from an open economy? What financial, scientific, and educational policy tools will contribute to the implementation of the recently approved ‘Strategic Directions for the Development of Eurasian Economic integration until 2025’? These questions were discussed by participants in a series of expert discussions at the XXII April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development organised by HSE University and Sberbank.
In order to remain competitive in the labour market, university graduates must be proficient not only in professional knowledge and skills, but also in a set of universal competences (UC). However, higher education systems face problems in assessing such competences due to a lack of developed approaches and methodologies. A report released by the HSE Institute of Education, ‘An Assessment of Universal Competences as Higher Education Learning Outcomes’, analyses the ways in which these challenges have been addressed in both Russia and abroad.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a fundamental component of many activities in economics and finance in recent years. On April 26,Panos Pardalos, Academic Supervisor at theLaboratory of Algorithms and Technologies for Networks Analysis (LATNA at HSE Nizhny Novgorod) and Distinguished Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida, will talk about its impact, future developments and limitations in his honorary lecture Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Economics and Finance.
General wealth levels in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have been improving since 2012 — poverty has been decreasing. But due to COVID, global poverty levels, including those of these regions, may increase considerably for the first time in two decades. Samuel Freije-Rodriguez, Lead Economist at World Bank, talked about this at the XXII April Conference organized by HSE University and Sberbank.
The global economy’s pace of recovery after the pandemic largely depends on whether consumers will return to a hedonic style of consumption. At the XXII April International Academic Conference, organized by the HSE and Sberbank, the HSE School of World Economy held a round table ‘The World Economy in the Context of the Coronavirus Pandemic’.
Experts believe that increasing productivity, diversifying the economy, as well as developing human capital and expanding non-resource exports will help boost Russia's economic growth. But the state policy has to be smart. This was discussed at a series of round tables and expert discussions on the topic of productivity at the XXII April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, organised by HSE University and Sberbank.
From April 13 to 30, HSE University is hosting the XXII April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, one of the most important annual events in Russian humanities. Profile talked to Lev Jakobson, co-chair of the conference organising committee and vice president of HSE University, about the challenges that researchers face today.
The competition for promising young researchers is intensifying around the world, and spending on preparing future generations of highly qualified specialists is on the rise. This is happening against a backdrop of digitalisation, which is creating a new digital inequality. For example, a quarter of the adult population in Russia does not possess any digital skills and does not use the Internet. These and other topics were discussed by participants of a round table held during the XXII April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development organised by HSE University and Sberbank.